Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Suspension of Disbelief

“A writer must practice, to a profound degree, the ‘suspension of disbelief.’ He must not only care about what he is writing, he must believe without question that he is re-creating truth, that the truth of his story is what it must be, and let no one be in any doubt about that. And if one writes as believingly as possible, the story will then ring true for the reader … And if this involvement is lacking in your work, your story will leave a reader cold and probably disbelieving of all you have to say ...” Hallie Burnett in On Writing the Short Story.
This sounds easy, but it’s not. In a critique of a recent short story, one reviewer asked if a character was really that dumb. My internal response was, well … yes. Okay, maybe not exactly dumb, but I hoped the reader might wonder if his elevator went to the top floor. I believed in what I wrote, but it didn’t come across to this reader. That’s one reason why it’s important to have others read what I write -- and relatives don’t count.

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